Saturday, 3 August 2013

World bites - bite back!

Teurastamo, old slaughterhouse located in Kalasatama in Helsinki has recently found a new lease on life. Dubbed as an "urban oasis" it has, for a while, been a destination I've been meaning to check out myself. This weekend it hosted World bites, a food festival dedicated the world cuisine so obviously I just had to make time for it. Ten participating stalls made sure all tastes were catered for.

World village festival, held in Kaisaniemi at the end of each May, brings even the most exotic cuisines to Helsinki. Even there the quality of the food is very average - the soggy spring rolls and kebab platters aren't exactly hard to come by anywhere one goes. It's the African vendors that are my favourites year after year - there aren't many restaurants specialized in that part of the world in Helsinki. Out of the two restaurants here the Congolese one (advertizing themselves as "the good and even better") seemed not so quietly confident about their supremacy.

The service was extremely inefficient, but the food was good. The kamundele skewers were excellent and reminded me of pinchitos. Seasoning and doneness were spot on. Mackerel, spiced with at least chilli and grilled over open flame was another excellent choice - the companion exclaimed it was the best fish she'd ever had.

The ladies running the show were hands down the best dressed revellers of the day.

Meat on a stick, grilling on fire is a language shared by everyone and the intoxicating scent wasn't all down to the Congolese - right next to them the Taiwanese were giving them a run for their money.

The chicken kebabs were outstanding. The sweet, sticky and spicy glaze was something I definitely intend to replicate over my own grill. The companion has lived and travelled in Asia for years and suspected it might be apricot-based. I detected some orangey notes there too. 

The fish balls (made from pangasius) and meatballs on the other hand had a quaint, rubbery texture reminiscent of octopus. For those with affinity for peculiar textures there was also bubble tea. Its tapioca pearls are definitely not... well, everyone's cup of tea.

We couldn't help but wonder what there people do outside festivals like this. Personally I would love more authentic ethnic restaurants instead of those tired dumps serving kebab ANd pizza AND Indian food. It's exactly this kind of simple streetfood that makes my heart squeal with delight.

One restaurant that delights diners all year round is Twisted kitchen. They were serving that amazing mussaman curry that I fell for some time ago. The noodle salad was crunchy, fresh and perfect for a hot summer's day like today. The flavours were clean and spot on. Salted nuts and pomegranate seeds gave the texture extra oomph.

Another restaurant that has established a presence in Kamppi is Tortilla House's foodtruck. Their stuff is ok, but the freshness and feistiness don't have anything on Cholo.

For sweet stuff the Congolese mikate donuts were an absolute delight. Crisp on the outside, chewy on the inside and drenched in syrup for maximum delectability. Personally I'm not a big fan of the Dutch stroopwafels, but freshly made and stuffed with home-made syrup there's no denying: they were fab.

Luckily for the festival the August sun was out in full force and as were laid on the grass, listening to the groovy tunes the DJ was turning out Helsinki felt like a damn good place to live in. A big thank you for the organizers - more of this please!

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